September 30 is Orange Shirt Day. Here’s How You Can Participate.

The following is information about the survivors and victims of the Canadian residential school system. 

September 30 is Orange Shirt Day and Canada’s first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. It’s a day to honour the survivors and victims of the residential school system and reflect on the atrocities Canada committed against Indigenous Peoples. 

This day is a day to listen to the stories of survivors and this year, reflect on the commitments many of us made following the discovery of the bodies of 215 children in an unmarked grave on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School. Since late May, over one thousand graves have been found as thousands of children are believed to have died in residential schools. 

While the news in May came as a surprise to many Canadian settlers, the 2015 Truth and Reconciliation Commission made clear these sites existed; six of the 94 recommendations pertain to the identification of missing children and their marked and unmarked burial sites (#71-76). September 30 is an opportunity to check in and ensure promises made this summer are not just lip service and that Canada continues to complete the 94 calls to action. 

It’s also a time to process and grieve. Former senator and chief commissioner of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), Murray Sinclair, says, “It’s not just about marching and dressing up and getting some time off from school [or] work,” he said. “If you fully understand what that … ceremony is about, you won’t prevent yourself from crying.”

History of Orange Shirt Day 

The Orange Shirt Day movement began from the story of Phyllis Webstad from the Stswecem’c Xgat’tem First Nation. In 1973, on her first day at St. Joseph’s Residential School in Williams Lake, BC, the orange shirt her granny bought for her for her first day of school was stripped from her. Forty years later, on September 30th, 2013, Phyllis spoke publicly for the first time about her experience, and from there, Orange Shirt Day began.

Hear from Phyllis Webstad in her own words

The Government of Canada recently legislated September 30 as National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. The passing of Bill C-5 follows the 2015 TRC recommendation that Orange Shirt Day be formally recognized as a federal statutory holiday. 

How to Participate in Orange Shirt Day




  • Indian Residential School Survivors Society
  • Buy an orange shirt from an Indigenous designer and/or official organizations that gives proceeds to survivors and reconciliation efforts.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Every child matters.

What Our Members are Reading to Make An Informed Vote

It goes without saying that our members are a highly engaged and resourceful bunch with expertise across sectors, provinces, identities, and social impact issues. We’re lucky to learn from them every day. So with that in mind, we asked what they’re reading (and writing) to make an informed vote in the lead-up to the election. From housing to health to climate, here’s what some of them had to share: 


Cassie Barker, Executive Director of Women’s Healthy Environments Network (WHEN), said, “Indigenous health and rights are so important to federal jurisdiction and accountability, and need more focus from the media coverage of the election and platforms.” They suggest reading: What You Need To Know About The Biggest Indigenous Issues This Election

CSI Member (a charity empowering young leaders to revolutionize mental health) has  been keeping up on health-related issues, including child care, public health and pandemic preparedness, by comparing platform promises through Maclean’s platform guide:  2021 Election Platform Guide 


CSI Member Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation (CERA) wrote a comprehensive piece comparing the four main federal parties’ platforms on housing, homelessness, financialization of housing and more: 

Federal parties’ housing platforms in the 2021 election 


WHEN Executive Director, Cassie, also suggested a National Observer article by Seth Klein, author of A Good War and a leading climate expert (you can catch Seth here in one of our Climate Venture Conversations). He analyzes the Liberal and NDP climate platforms: 

If you want your vote to help the climate, here are the questions you need to ask 

Our network is reading: 

Election 2021: how the four main federal parties plan to tackle the climate crisis 


CSI Member Ontario Presents cited the Canadian Arts Coalition as their go-to resource for arts and culture party promises: 

Election 2021: Federal Parties Release Arts and Culture Platforms 

Our network is reading: 

Election 2021: The Major Parties on Arts and Culture 

Disability Rights

CSI Member Access Now shared these resources: 

Canadians with disabilities say they’re missing from the election discussion 

Disability advocates grade party platforms ahead of Election 44

2021 Election: Canada’s National Policy Platforms & People with Disabilities 

Indigenous Rights and Reconciliation 

Our network is reading: 

What are the major parties promising Indigenous people this election? Here’s a look at the platforms 

Complete list of promises made on Indigenous reconciliation

We will continue to update this list throughout the week in the lead-up to the election! Check back here throughout the week as we have more to share.  

Everything You Need to Know About How to Vote

Election day is September 20. Do you have a voting plan? Let’s get you to the polls! 

What You Need to Know 

There can be a lot of mystique around voting. It’s right up there with filing taxes and figuring out how other people train for marathons – both of which, like most things, can seem intimidating and obscure until you break the process down into small steps. Voting is no different. Here’s a step-by-step guide sourced from Elections Canada on what you need to know. 

First and foremost, to vote, you must be a Canadian citizen, be at least 18 years old on election day and prove your identity and address. Proving identity and address usually looks like showing ID at your voting station. There are a range of ID options you can use to vote. Take a look at them here

Did you know If you don’t have ID, you can still vote if you declare your identity and address in writing and have someone who knows you and who is assigned to your polling station vouch for you? The voucher must prove their identity and address using option 1 or option 2. A person can vouch for only one person (except in long-term care facilities).

Register to Vote

Before you can vote, you have to register! This might actually be the most mystified part of the process, but rest assured, it’s easy. In fact, if you didn’t register online, don’t worry! You can register when you go to vote at your polling station. 

Most Canadians who are eligible to vote are already registered in the National Register of Electors. To check if you are registered or to register to vote, use the Online Voter Registration Service, visit your local Elections Canada office or call Elections Canada 1-800-463-6868. Have any more questions about registration? Here’s a handy FAQs list from Elections Canada. 

Make a Voting Plan with a Friend 

We’re in a pandemic. The election cycle is short. It’s summer. And while voting is a vital part of our democracy, it’s easy for the physical action to turn into an errand if the to-do list begins to pile up. That’s why it’s so important to make a voting plan. Text a friend who lives in your riding. Locate your assigned polling station. Set a time. Go together. Maybe celebrate your fundamental rights with a little ice cream after? It can be fun!  

And if you’re reading this on election day, it’s not too late! There’s still time to read up on the issues and make an informed vote. In fact, we wrote a roundup of roundups zooming in on some core issues. Not registered to vote yet? No problem! You can register when you go to vote at your polling station. And remember, by law, you can take time off work to vote (here’s how). It’s your right. Exercise it! 

Ways You Can Vote

You can vote on election day on Monday, September 20, or before by mail, at advance polls, or at any Election Canada office across Canada before September 14 at 4:00 p.m. Here’s Elections Canada with more on where you can vote: 

“You can vote at several places in person or by mail from wherever you are.

In person

  • In your riding at your assigned advance polling station on Friday, September 10; Saturday, September 11; Sunday, September 12; and Monday, September 13, 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.
  • In your riding at your assigned polling station on election day, Monday, September 2
  • At any Elections Canada office across Canada before Tuesday, September 14, 6:00 p.m.

By mail

When you vote by mail, you use the special ballot process.

If you are part of a vulnerable population or know you will be away from your riding during advance and election day polls, you can vote by mail. Apply to vote by mail before Tuesday, September 14, 6:00 p.m. to get your voting kit.

It has never been easier to return your mail-in ballot. The mailing envelope is pre-addressed and return postage is free.

Make sure we receive your marked ballot by election day. Follow the instructions included in your voting kit.  Remember, your ballot is your responsibility. If you need help returning your ballot, seal your voting kit envelopes and choose someone you know and trust.

Remember: Once you have applied to vote by special ballot, you can’t change your mind and vote at advance polls or on election day.”

For more information on voting, including frequently asked questions, head to Elections Canada. Happy voting! 

On September 7, CSI is Opening Its Doors

It’s time. As of Tuesday,CSI Spadina Welcome Desk September 7, CSI is ready to open its doors to our community once more…. Whew, we’ve been waiting to say that. 

There’s excitement, anticipation, and a healthy dose of jitters contained in these words. Our team has been preparing all summer to safely welcome those who are ready back to our shared spaces. It’s what Shona, our Chief Community Officer, beautifully describes as “a slow and tentative return to joy.” So, what does that look like? We got you’ve covered down below and don’t forget to read our COVID safety policies here.

What You’ve Been Waiting For: Events, Rituals, and Renovations 

Marcus and Steffan sitting in CSI SpadinaIn some ways, September 7 marks a return to the familiar. You’ll recognize familiar faces underneath their masks as Matt, Stefan, Gonzalo, and the rest of the community team take care of all our members’ needs. In other ways, we are welcoming something new: an energy and alchemy we may not have the words for yet but that we’ll soon transcribe through the new rituals, solutions, and events we create together (all of which you’ll find posted on our events calendar and on the Common Platform!). 

Rebuilding is a collaborative process. In this spirit, Marcus, CSI Spadina’s Community Animator, is excited to host a community-building think tank every Wednesday in Spadina’s new outdoor coworking space

Taking advantage of the last of the summer heat, the building’s laneway has been transformed into a patio where members can work on projects and – starting Wednesday, September 8 – meet with Marcus to answer questions like, “How are we rebuilding the community together? What do you want to see in the space?” Historically, rituals like Bagel Bonding and Salad Club have never come from staff; they’ve always come from the community. Now is the time to decide what the next iteration of rituals will look like, together! 

Similarly, you’ll find our CSI Annex laneway patio Annex Community Animator, Tara, serving ice cream on Wednesday afternoons at Get The Scoop, a chance for members to reconnect on the Annex’s  brand new laneway patio. Inspired by the way people deepened their relationships on long walks in lockdown, Tara is excited to sit down with members in smaller, more intimate settings to discuss the future of their work.  

Our community also continues online through bi-weekly Lunch and Learns starting September 13. Join our Membership Animator, Andrea, and CSI Member, Laura Hanek of Swoop Media, to learn how graphic recording can improve the way you work. And rounding out the month, we’ll have a Community Toast on September 30, where we’ll raise a glass both in-person and online to the next chapter of building the Next Economy! 

Accessibility rampWhat else? Well, you might notice we’ve added a splash of colour here and there (more on Spadina’s new mural next week) and after sixteen years, the Spadina Welcome Desk has finally made its way to the ground floor…makes sense, right? There you’ll also find a new lounge space beside our beautiful accessibility ramp, designed by McWood Studios. With the Welcome Desk taking its rightful home, the third floor now features more hot desk space and its own lounge area. 

More space is the talk of the town as the team put a lot of effort into optimizing the way we move through the buildings. Tara refers to Annex’s redesign as a “de-densification of the hot desk and dedicated desk areas.” For those who’ve been with us for a while, you’ll be happy to hear we’ve completed a much anticipated renovation of the Annex’s third-floor kitchen! This community space gotAnnex kitchen quite the upgrade with two fridges, two microwaves, extra member storage, and a more accessible design.

We can’t wait for you to see what we have in store. As we remain in a time of transition, we also find ourselves in a time of rich co-creation. We are excited to continue iterating, adapting, and collaborating alongside you. If you have any questions, ideas or feedback, don’t hesitate to reach out to a member of the community team. With that, see you soon!

Reflecting on Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation’s Announcement

The following is a reflection from multiple staff members as we processed the news from Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation and looked for concrete actions that we and our community can take. Please note that the following contains material some may find triggering in regards to residential schools in Canada. 

Indigenous History Month began just a few days after the bodies of 215 children were found in an unmarked grave on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School. On Monday, the National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, Perry Bellegarde, called for this horrific finding to be a “catalyst” for further work uncovering these graves at the sites of residential schools throughout the country.

On behalf of her band, Chief Rosanna Casimir of Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation is encouraging everyone to take part in a National Day of Prayer today (June 6). With a similar intention, Idle No More Toronto and Porcupine Warriors have organized the Bring Our Children Home March and ceremonial event happening today at Queen’s Park in Toronto at 2 p.m E.T. Today is a day to reflect on this unthinkable loss and honour the 215 children who have been found, as well as the countless more who are still missing. 

The first step towards reconciliation must be truth, and so listening to the words of survivors* of the Kamloops residential school, and the system as a whole, is paramount. (*Warning: This story contains disturbing details about the Kamloops residential school. The National Indian Residential School Crisis Hotline can be reached at 1-866-925-4419.)

Those of us who are settlers must recognize that as much as this discovery at Kamloops is tragic, it is not surprising: “We know there are a lot of sites like Kamloops that are going to come to light in the future,” said Murray Sinclair, Chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. 

We must also recognize that calls for justice are not new. Indigenous peoples have been speaking out since the schools’ inception. In 1907, the first Chief Medical Officer of the Interior, Dr. P.H. Bryce, wrote a report demanding a major overhaul of the system of residential schools, only to be ignored by the Canadian government, and later pushed out from public service. In 1922, he wrote a book, The Story of a National Crime: An Appeal to Justice to the Indians of Canada, detailing clear evidence of the government’s role in creating and maintaining the system of oppression, as well as their attempts to silence him. 

When tragedy surfaces, there can be a tendency to assume we need to create more solutions, that a problem persists out of an absence of ideas. Such assumptions can be a way of intellectualizing atrocity and problem-solving our way out of discomfort. Indigenous communities have been recommending solutions, providing answers, and lighting a path for reconciliation for a very long time. The problem persists, not out of a lack of policy analysis or studies or community processes; it persists due to government inaction and public indifference.

Yellowhead Institute’s 2020 status update on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission paints a grave picture of our unfolding legacy: “In 2019, we noted that at the rate of 2.25 calls completed each year, we could only hope to see substantial change over nearly four decades (we projected the completion of Calls to Action to be in 2057). Unfortunately, with the regression of this year’s reconciliation update, it could take much longer, at least another generation.” Of the 94 recommendations, six of them pertain to the identification of missing children and their marked and unmarked burial sites (#71-76). According to Perry Bellegarde, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, these specific calls to action have not been fully implemented, though some progress has been made. 

It’s important to recognize that this work cannot be done solely by our institutions; it is also work that must be done by all Canadian settlers. An important starting point is to read, understand, and demand the adoption of the 94 recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Committee, which begin with calls to action for child welfare. And for those who have the means, here is a link to donate to the Indian Residential School Survivors Society

The following is further reading settlers can do to learn about the atrocities of the residential school system and take action towards reconciliation:

Here are health supports for survivors, their families and community members: 

  • A National Indian Residential School Crisis Line has been set up to provide support for former students and those affected. Access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hour national crisis line: 1-866-925-4419.
  • The Indian Residential School Survivors Society offers a crisis line for grief, crisis, and trauma counselling at 1-800-721-0066.
  • First Nations Health Authority provides mental wellness and culturally-safe support

Today is a national day of grieving. Let it be followed by deep, persistent action. 

Celebrating Canadian Innovation Week

Social Innovation Matters 

It’s right there in the name: we believe in the systems-changing power of innovation, particularly social innovation. It’s the keystone to all we do: social innovation breathes life into new ideas, awakens old ones, and is essential for unlocking the solutions for an equitable and sustainable world for us all. 

This Canadian Innovation Week, we’re celebrating the innovations and innovators doing the work to bring the most promising and transformative models, enterprises, and solutions to the world.  

WOSEN’s Troop Closes Pre-Seed Funding at 300K

CSI’s WOSEN participant, Troop, is at it again. Named one of Canada’s Top 100 Recovery Projects in 2020, Troop recently participated in our Investment Readiness Supports program. Now, the tech-for-good startup just closed its pre-seed round of funding at $300,000. 

“It wasn’t easy.” Troop’s Founder, Kelly Emery, writes on social media: 

“I’ve spent the past 18 months building out a MVP, getting users and proving the product-market fit.  I have a previous startup and exit under my belt.  I should have been confident about raising, right? I wasn’t.  

Only 2.3% of funding goes to women-led startups

My frustration at the inequality of the system fuelled my drive to succeed. I met (virtually!) with 49 different angels, VCs and personal investment firms. With every pitch, I was fighting for the money, but I was also fighting for every other woman founder in the same boat.”

She’s right. That’s why we are part of the Women of Ontario Social Enterprise Network (WOSEN). CSI’s WOSEN program supports women and gender non-binary entrepreneurs from ideation to acceleration to investment. Last year, Kelly participated in WOSEN’s Resilience program and Investment Readiness Supports, a program designed for social entrepreneurs who are preparing for funding or investment in the coming year. 

She explains, “At the beginning, even the smallest ounce of support can be the catalyst for success. For me, it was the phone call with [CSI’s WOSEN Senior Program Manager], Mitalie Makhani, when she told me about the WOSEN program. There I met a mentor, that led to an introduction to someone who would become an advisor, and from there, the first investment cheque.” 

Look at her now. This is what happens when we invest in individuals underrepresented in entrepreneurship: 

“Today, I closed the round at $300K.  Eleven investors are backing my idea and ME.”

More from Troop on the announcement: 

Founded in 2019, Troop will use the new capital to further develop their software that drives community giving by connecting businesses and their employees with local needs.  With 50+ charity and nonprofit partners in the GTA, Troop aggregates tangible needs and allows employees to vote monthly on the local needs they want their business to fulfill.  The contribution is captured in a monthly Impact Report that is easily shared with staff and customers.

The round was led by Sand Hill North, a private investment firm that focuses on software solutions that make the world a better place, followed by several angel investors from the Toronto area, including former CEO and founder of HomeStars, Nancy Peterson. 

“It’s fantastic to have this support from our investors and to be in a position to grow what we started with Troop,” said Kelly Emery, founder and CEO of Troop.  “Customers and employees are demanding greater social responsibility from companies, but that’s tough for SMBs operating on minimal resources.  Troop offers a cost effective giving program that engages all employees.  Because it happens every month, the team develops a stronger understanding of the needs in their community and how they fit in. When it’s this easy to do good, everyone wants to get involved.”

We’re so glad we are. Congratulations, Kelly! 

Keep reading:

Need support preparing for the right grant, loan or investment opportunity? 

Registration is open for women and gender non-binary people who lead established social ventures, who have a defined capital need, and who are preparing for funding or investment in the coming year.

State of the [CSI] Nation

It’s been a while since we last heard from our CEO, Tonya Surman. Considering all the changes that have been happening around here—for example, did you know we’re hiring for a new COO and CPO? —we thought it was time for a check-in!

Don’t just do something! Stand there!

I often find myself reflecting on CSI and my 17 year journey as a social-entrepreneur-turned -founder-and-CEO. Given the rapid and relentless impact of Covid-19 these past several months, I’ve been doing a lot more reflecting than usual, reflection that is actively repositioning and building CSI for what’s next. 

What’s next is CSI doubling down to prove that solutions for the Next Economy are possible. We’re building Canada’s social innovation ecosystem to unlock the earliest stages of enterprises, transform the humans leading these enterprises, and provide a ladder of support that helps them advance and accelerate their solutions from idea to impact.

Proud and Grateful

In March 2020, Covid-19 forced CSI shut its doors for the first time ever. Ironically, we were ‘designed for contagion’ which is great for building social capital but not so good for preventing the spread of viruses. During the first few months of the pandemic, we were stunned, scared, and uncertain. Over the past year (thanks Covid!), we’ve lost 38% of our members – those early stage initiatives that are so vulnerable and often led by some of our most ‘at-risk’ people. It was devastating to see what you, our members, had worked so hard to create, start to crumble.

But our community came together with the creation of our Community Rent Pool, and with the support of the federal wage subsidy, some savings that we had squirreled away, and a diversified revenue stream (TechSoup Canada and CSI Accelerates) CSI continues to navigate through the pandemic. And while we have lost a lot of members, we’ve kept many, many more. We haven’t had to lay off or furlough any staff. We’ve built new partnerships. We’ve strengthened and diversified our Board. These are all things for which I am enormously grateful for and proud of. 

Covid forced us to catch up with ourselves 

Once out of the initial crisis response mode, we had a chance to check in and make sure that we were going in the right direction. Covid has forced us to make some tough decisions. We were forced to close our CSI New York location and move our amazing NYC community online. We also were forced to close our CSI Regent Park location and pivot our work to become more community facing as we look to open the CSI Community Living Room on the ground floor of the Daniels Spectrum and deliver our Every One Every Day program in partnership with Artscape.

For the last 17 years we have been catalyzing, supporting, and inspiring social innovation, but let’s be honest, most people really saw us as the ‘cool, beautiful, hippie coworking space’ in downtown Toronto. (I mean, they’re right, we are pretty beautiful.)

But is that enough to drive the change we want to see in the world? The answer, in truth, is no.

From the Sidelines to the Centre

During our 17 years, we have been pushing, promoting and nudging people towards social innovation, a concept which remains vague and high level. We’ve also been supporting social entrepreneurs… why? Because we believe those idealists with drive and passion are just the right breed of mix – visionary, opportunistic, and pragmatic – to be able to radically redesign business models that put people and planet first. 

But you know, despite progress, social entrepreneurs and social enterprise have been side-lined from halls of power. “Oh look at those nice nonprofits dreaming up those neat little community bonds! How quaint!” or “Maybe the government can create a nice ‘sector’ fund for us and we can have access to… what? 0.001% of the budget?” Maybe I sound harsh, but social enterprise is not enough. Yes, it is important in and of itself, but social enterprise is NOT ENOUGH to fundamentally change our systems.

Re-think, Redesign, Re-set

We know we need a radical redesign of our economic system… our system is flawed. It is built on colonialism, discrimination, sexism, classism, and an unsustainable expectation that our planet will survive our object and relentless abuse. 

I’m horrified by how disconnected we are to the very thing that sustains our life – Mother Earth. No one can deny that we exist at the behest of this great life-giving entity. No religion, culture, race, or creed is exempt from this fundamental relationship – with the air we breath, the water we drink, and the soil that provides us with our sustenance. Every culture in the world goes back far enough to recognize this profound relationship. Many of us are so lost in our digital worlds that we forget what makes us happy: the wind in our hair, a smile from someone we love, relating to each other. 

With Covid, the Earth gave us a ‘time-out’ and sent us to our room to think about what we had done to her. And now, as a global society, Covid has revealed the most vulnerable and once so revealed, we can no longer ignore the vast inequalities. In some respects, the Earth has given us this amazing opportunity to re-think, re-design and re-set our systems. 

Ok, that was a rant. Sorry! Back to my story.

Social Entrepreneurs and Capitalism… right! Oh yes, and CSI. 

So here’s the deal. We need to work together to build the NEXT ECONOMY. We need to take what is good about capitalism – the democratized meritocracy, self-organizing nature, and energy – and we need to make it better. We need to build circles into every design of every system that we create. We need to build a regenerative, equitable, and prosperous economy for all. 

And here’s the exciting thing: the Next Economy is already emerging, with inspiring examples from around the world showing us the way. The Next Economy is sustainable, people-centred, circular, just, participatory, and equitable. It is conscious and caring and it is inclusive: building community wealth, health and wellbeing. We are seeing every sector confronting these challenges – from farming to finance and everything in between.

From local to the global, the Next Economy movement has the potential to redefine success, reshape markets, respect the planet’s capacity to regenerate itself, and create an economy that benefits everyone. 

It’s up to us to be the designers of our economies – to build intentional economies that reflect what we really value – people and planet.

So, that’s what we are doing, and what we want to do more of. We’ve thought about it a lot and let’s face it: CSI, along with so many others, has been working on this for decades and we are finally seeing the mainstreaming of these ideas! It is working! The public and private sectors are finally building ESG’s, clean tech, and so much more. We’re doing it! 

We need to keep supporting the world to embody these values into every decision. We need deep diversity. We need to practice inclusion in ways that may be awkward and painful for some. We need to see across differences and learn to listen better. We need to get outside and listen to how the trees can speak to us. We need to relearn what it is to build true relationships and meaningful communities that we can rely on. We need to remember how to play and bring joy back into our lives. We also need to reclaim our agency and see that we have to power to redesign our economics to be caring and circular when we work together.

CSI is putting everything that we’ve got into Proving that the Next Economy is Possible. We are building social innovation labs mixed with entrepreneurial energy to co-create the business models of the future. We are supporting the humans that are at the earliest stage of their entrepreneurial adventures, often welcoming people who feel unwelcome elsewhere, providing them with the education, acceleration, and catalytic services and supports. We are focusing on Climate Ventures, Social Ventures and Community Wealth. 

We want to collaborate with the people and organizations which share our values and we want to focus on solutions. We ain’t that keen to argue. The challenges are too urgent and the stakes are too high. Instead we want to continue to be generous with each other, give each other the benefit of the doubt, and focus as we always have done, on building real hope, inspiring possibility and demonstrating lasting solutions. 

Wild-eyed still, even 17 years later… let’s see what we can do. We know what we need to, so who wants to help us actually do it? 

Next Economy Trends in the Federal Budget

The federal government announced the budget this week, and if you haven’t had a chance to read the 724-page document, well, that’s understandable!

Shifting systems towards a people and planet first world requires market, policy and cultural change. We’ve always felt this in our bones, known it in our hearts and understood it intellectually. This budget has the potential to push on key market and policy levers, and it is no doubt influenced by the cultural changes afoot. Yes, there are critical pieces missing and plenty of room for improvement (notably, we’re missing the inclusion of a Universal Basic Income strategy and this budget needs to do more to support climate action), but this is an important budget that we believe holds potential for creating a more people and planet first world with some promising Next Economy trends.


The Next Economy is
equitable, sustainable, and prosperous.

We know you have all been a part of pushing for the changes and solutions our communities, economies, and planet need, and we’re proud to continue working with the incredible CSI community, pushing forward for a better today and tomorrow. Here’s a roundup of some budget highlights:


Ending the She-session
This budget proposes supporting women entrepreneurs with $146.9 million over four years to increase access to affordable financing, increase data, and strengthen capacity within the entrepreneurship ecosystem. It looks to strengthen the Women Entrepreneurship Strategy, Women Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Fund, and the Women Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub. We know that women have been hit hard by the pandemic “she-session”—we’ve heard firsthand from our Women of Ontario Enterprise Network (WOSEN) participants how its affected them—and we’re eager to see these funds support more women as they return to the workforce and flourish in the years ahead.

Supporting BIPOC Entrepreneurs & Economies
Covid-19 has disproportionately affected Black Canadians and they’re more likely than other Canadians to experience layoffs because of it. These issues stem from systemic anti-Black racism. This budget proposes providing $100 million in the next year to the Supporting Black Canadian Communities Initiative as well as $200 million to Employment and Social Development Canada to establish a new Black-led Philanthropic Endowment Fund which intends to “create a sustainable source of funding, including for Black youth and social purpose organizations, and help combat anti-Black racism and improve social and economic outcomes in Black communities.”

The budget also proposes expanding the Aboriginal Entrepreneurship Program by investing $42 million over three years to directly support Indigenous-led businesses. The National Aboriginal Capital Corporations Association’s Indigenous Women’s Entrepreneurship Initiative will also be granted $22 million over three years to provide tools, services, and resources to increase the number of Indigenous women entrepreneurs.

Creating Accessible Communities & Workplaces
For our physical spaces to be truly equitable, they must be physically accessible. The budget pledges to provide $100 million over two years to triple funding for the Enabling Accessibility Fund which provides support for renovation, construction, and retrofit projects that make communities and workplaces more accessible for persons with disabilities. This fund helped CSI install a wheelchair lift and pave the laneway at 192 Spadina!

Surfing From Far and Wide
Unless a very kind and thoughtful friend printed this blog post out and mailed it to you, you’re probably using the internet to read it. In many rural and remote Canadian communities, inaccessibility to broadband internet creates a barrier, not only to reading the CSI blog, but to participating in the economy. This budget proposes providing an additional $1 billion to the existing $6.2 billion already in the Universal Broadband Fund over six years, to support a more rapid rollout of broadband projects. 


Getting to Net Zero
The budget earmarks $5 billion over seven years for the Net Zero Accelerator, a program launched in the government’s climate plan last December to fast-track decarbonization projects. This funding would provide up to $8 billion of support for jobs and projects that will help reduce domestic greenhouse gas emissions. The plan is to reduce the general corporate and small business income tax rates by 50 per cent for businesses that manufacture zero-emission technologies (starting in 2022, gradually phasing out starting in 2029, and eliminated by 2032).

Financing Clean Tech
As we’ve seen through our EarthTech program, Canadian Clean Tech has a critical role to play in tackling the climate crisis and ventures from coast to coast are working harder than ever to ensure a flourishing future for people and the planet. This budget suggests making up to $1 billion available on a cash basis, over five years, to help draw in private sector investment to the Canadian clean technology sector.

Greening Our Bond Options
You already know we’re fans of innovative bonds. The government plans to issue its inaugural federal green bond in 2021-22. Through green bonds, investors have the opportunity to finance projects such as green infrastructure, clean tech innovations, and nature conservation in an effort to combat climate change.


Recovering From Covid
Last year was hard for the nonprofit and charitable sectors, and this year hasn’t been easier. By way of some relief, the government plans to provide $400 million to charities and non-profits through the temporary Community Services Recovery Fund in 2021-22. It also plans to extend Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) and the Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy (CERS) and Lockdown Support beyond June, with both programs extending until September 25 and CEWS eventually replaced by the new Canada Recovery Hiring Program.

If approved, this budget will also see the Canada Small Business Financing Program expand its borrower eligibility to include non-profit and charitable social enterprises, lending against intellectual property and start-up assets and expenses, and a new line of credit product. It also proposes to increase annual financing by $560 million, supporting approximately 2,900 additional small businesses.

Investing in the Social Finance Fund & Investment Readiness Program
Social finance helps mobilize capital to bring about public good for people and planet. The government is planning to release up to $220 million of the $755 million Social Finance Fund over the next two years and proposes to renew the Investment Readiness Program (IRP) with $50 million over two years. This program supports charities, non-profits, and social purpose organizations in capacity-building activities such as business plan development, expanding products and services, skills development, and hiring. We’ve seen firsthand what this funding can do: over 20% of the 48 projects funded by the IRP were existing and former CSI accelerator program participants and members! Thanks to the IRP, Social Innovation Canada has been deepening and broadening the capacity of Canada’s social innovation ecosystem to apply Social R&D practices that can help strengthen programs and improve organizational investment readiness.

Spending for Good
If you’re a charity, you’ve got to spend a minimum amount on your programs or gifts each year. However, in Canada we’ve got a gap of at least $1 billion in charitable expenditures! The budget proposes launching public consultations with charities on increasing the disbursement quota beginning in 2022. According to the budget, “this could potentially increase support for the charitable sector and those that rely on its services by between $1 billion and $2 billion annually.” That’s ‘billion’ with a “B”.

Digitizing Our Businesses
More important than ever, the new Canada Digital Adoption Program will help small and medium-sized businesses adopt new digital technologies through micro-grants and access to zero-interest financing to help offset the costs of going digital. The budget proposes providing $2.6 billion over four years on a cash basis to the Business Development Bank of Canada to help small- and medium-sized businesses finance technology adoption.

Securing Housing
In 2019 Canada declared housing a human right. Good thing because right now, the country is in an affordable housing crisis which is only showing signs of accelerating (the reason we’re engaged in a Financialization of Housing lab right now). Hopefully, there is some relief coming through  some of the budget’s proposals: $2.5 billion over seven years to Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation which includes an additional $1.5 billion for the Rapid Housing Initiative (at least 25 per cent of this funding would go towards women-focused housing projects); $600 million over seven years to renew and expand the Affordable Housing Innovation Fund; $315.4 million over seven years through the Canada Housing Benefit; $118.2 million over seven years through the Federal Community Housing Initiative; and $3.8 billion earmarked for affordable housing units

The Trudeau government also proposes reallocating $1.3 billion of previously announced funding, including $750 million in funding under the National Housing Co-Investment Fund, $250 million in funding under the National Housing Co-Investment Fund, and $300 million in funding from the Rental Construction Financing Initiative.

Our 2019/2020 Annual Report

Yep, we know, after the maelstrom of 2020 it’s hard to recall anything that occurred before the pandemic! But, of course, things did happen and there are stories to be shared, so without further ado please dig in to our 2019/20 Annual Report.

2019/20 annual report cover

Right now, in the early months of 2021, our story is still unfolding: despite Covid-19, we’ve made great progress in our journey towards the Next Economy. We’ve taken time to solidify our programming approach and honed into our core areas of focus. We’ve taken on Labs and Challenges, and even worked with the City of Toronto on a Homelessness and Hygiene lab in the height of the pandemic.

We’re investing even more in the success of early stage enterprises that are developing solutions to the world’s biggest problems. These are the innovators that call CSI home; whether they’re ventures in one of our accelerator programs, participants in Social Enterprise 101, or members with or without office space (oh yeah, you can be a CSI member without office space – it’s true), they’re part of a community of changemakers who are working on the Next Economy.

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